HS2 in Staffordshire to arrive 'six years early'
Controversial HS2 will be built through Staffordshire up to six years earlier than previously scheduled, under new government plans.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced he will introduce a new Bill in Parliament to speed up construction of the £50bn high-speed line in the county.
But the minister won't confirm the final route of the tracks until autumn, meaning residents across Staffordshire face an anxious wait for compensation and to find out if they will be affected.
In his first speech since the election, the former Cannock miner said: "I want to see if we can bring HS2 to Crewe faster than planned, subject to further analysis and a decision on the preferred route.
"I'm determined to deliver the benefits to the north as fast as possible.
"So I'll prepare a dedicated Hybrid Bill in this Parliament. And we're not forgetting the eastern leg either. We'll make our phase two announcements this autumn.
"We're looking at ways of using the HS2 line to introduce faster regional services."
HS2 chairman Sir David Higgins outlined plans in March last year to build HS2 quicker through Staffordshire.
He wants construction on the line through the county to Crewe to start in 2021 and be completed by 2027 rather than 2033.
Work between Lichfield and Handsacre, which will see Stafford linked to the high-speed network, is set to begin in 2017.
Mr McLoughlin's comments in Leeds yesterday also seemed to rule out the prospect of a station in Stoke once and for all.
Bob Gasch, of Marston Against HS2, said: "We knew this was on the cards but we will continue campaigning.
"They seem intent on bringing this part of HS2 through earlier than had been planned.
"Since the announcement on HS2, this area has been affected but by not announcing the final route our lives here are in limbo. There are lots of people who wanted to sell up and retire by down-sizing but they can't sell their homes because of HS2 and are not entitled to compensation.
"There are lots of new MPs in Parliament and many Conservatives who are against the project, so we are still hopeful it will be scrapped."
The second phase of HS2 will cut through 33-miles of Staffordshire affecting Handsacre, Great Haywood, Ingestre, the County Showground, Hopton, Martson, Yarlet and Swynnerton.
Phase One will see 12 miles built in Staffordshire from Lichfield to Birmingham.
Stafford MP Jeremy Lefroy, who has voted against HS2, said he will oppose the new Bill to speed up construction in Staffordshire.
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